3 “must-have” nutrients for immune support this winter

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immune-system(NaturalHealth365)  Heavy metals, environmental pollutants, pesticides, EMF radiation, bacteria, and viruses – there’s seemingly no end to the onslaught of toxins and pathogens that threaten our health.  However, we have a powerful ally.  The immune system – an intricate association of cells, tissues, and organs – works around the clock to defeat potential attackers.

Unfortunately, various factors – such as aging, unwise lifestyle choices, and chronic stress – can jeopardize this mighty defense system and decrease immunity.  One of the most important steps we can take for the immune system’s health is to supply it with the proper nutrients.  For instance, according to a recent review, vitamin D3 supports the immune system by influencing the expression of genes involved in immune response and promoting the production of antimicrobial peptides that help combat infections.

In another article published in the International Journal of Molecular Science (IJMS), researchers affirmed the importance of sufficient vitamin D levels in supporting health.  And vitamin D isn’t the only hero on the team.  Let’s look at a trio of major “defensive players” from the nutrient family.

Antioxidant vitamin C “revs up” immune system cells

A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) helps to prevent the oxidative damage that may trigger disease – and has long been known to help control infections and speed wound healing.  In fact, this water-soluble vitamin stimulates the activity of white blood cells, the infection-fighting “foot soldiers” of the immune system.

It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.  While studies on vitamin C’s preventive abilities have yielded mixed findings (a result, some aficionados believe, of insufficient amounts used in research), many holistic healthcare providers and researchers agree that vitamin C can decrease the severity and duration of symptoms of the common cold.  (After all, anything that reduces the sneezing, sniffling misery of a cold should be considered a gift!)  It seems reasonable to assume that optimal levels of vitamin C can help keep your immune system primed and ready.

Studies show low levels of vitamin D may raise risk of autoimmune disease

Vitamin D (technically not a vitamin but a vitamin-like hormone) influences the immune system to fight against pathogens.  Studies have shown that this fat-soluble nutrient stimulates the antimicrobial activities of immune system cells, allowing it to help protect against fungal, viral, and bacterial infections.  In the latest IJMS review, the authors point out that low blood levels of vitamin D are associated with a higher risk of autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes.  In fact, a national trial involving over 25,000 participants proved that five years of vitamin D supplementation decreased the risk of autoimmune disease by a substantial 22 percent!  In addition, earlier research has demonstrated that vitamin D deficiency is associated with a higher risk of respiratory tract infections.

SHOCKING PROBIOTICS UPDATE: Discover the True Value of Probiotics and How to Dramatically Improve Your Physical, Mental and Emotional Wellbeing with ONE Easy Lifestyle Habit.

But how much vitamin D is needed to avoid shortfalls?  Many health authorities – including the Endocrine Society – consider vitamin D blood levels under 30 ng/mL to be “insufficient,” while under 20 ng/mL constitutes an outright deficiency.  For optimal benefits, the review authors advised blood levels of 40 to 60 ng/ml.  (Your healthcare practitioner can assess your vitamin D status with a simple blood test.)

The problem of insufficient vitamin D is certainly widespread.  A recent review involving over 6,000 American children and teens revealed that 61 percent were insufficient, while 9 percent were deficient.  (Adults didn’t fare much better.  Up to 40 percent were insufficient, and 6 percent were deficient).  Unfortunately, far too many people have shortfalls in this vital nutrient.  But, the good news is, this health issue is easily correctable.

Vitamin B6 is essential for the production of immune system cells

Vitamin B6, or pyridoxine, regulates the metabolism of amino acids and fats and supports nervous system function.  It is also needed to form immune cells.  According to a recent study published in the Journal of Immunology Research, deficiencies in vitamin B6 can slow growth and affect the formation of infection-fighting T lymphocytes.

In addition, adequate levels of vitamin B6 support heart health by lowering levels of homocysteine, an enzyme which – when present in large quantities – can lead to the narrowing of the arteries.  Clearly, this essential vitamin makes an important contribution to overall health.

Ensure immune system health with proper nutrition and appropriate supplementation

Because the body does not produce vitamin C, it must be obtained through diet or supplementation.  Eating healthy amounts of bell peppers, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits, strawberries, cauliflower, and broccoli can help you ramp up your dietary levels.  Opt for organic fare whenever possible.  If you’d like to try supplementing with vitamin C, many holistic healthcare providers advise the liposomal form as the most easily absorbable.  However, consult your own doctor before supplementing.

You can obtain vitamin D through exposure to direct sunlight, as well as by eating cold-water (wild) fatty fish, grass-fed beef liver, and cage-free eggs.  Because vitamin D needs can vary according to age, weight, state of health, gender, and even the climate in which one lives, consult with your holistic physician before supplementing.  Most practitioners advise using vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, rather than vitamin D2, or ergocalciferol.  The former is considered more effective in raising vitamin D levels.

Foods rich in B-complex vitamins include leafy green vegetables, wild-caught salmon, grass-fed beef liver, poultry, and chickpeas.  Your holistic doctor can advise a formulation of B-complex vitamins if needed.

Incidentally, probiotic foods (such as organic kimchi, unpasteurized raw sauerkraut, and non-GMO miso) are believed to support immunity by helping to balance the gut microbiome – a vital component of the immune system.  Staying well hydrated promotes efficient immune function by encouraging the body to produce lymph fluid, which transports infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body.

Of course, as an added immune system benefit, don’t ever underestimate the value of physical activity.

With the cold winter season upon us, supporting our bodies’ defenses is particularly important.  Doesn’t it make sense to give your immune system the ammunition it needs to function at top form?

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